Children stop having nightmares after spirit of dead highwayman 'exorcised' from English pub

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Many of the requests for 'deliverance ministry' that colleagues and I receive for help are when there are strange events in people's houses or places of work.

Here are some examples: the publican at an inn in the West of England is worried because his two young children are having terrible nightmares. He is worried that a highwayman, hung in the vicinity of the pub, is reputed to be buried under the bar. A small team of us go to pray. Nothing untoward happens except that a former chairman of the local council feels a great sense of cold in one area in the bar. However, the results are beneficial. The children, who knew nothing about the prayer, start to sleep perfectly, and the four year old boy, who has terrible eczema, is instantly healed when two of our prayer team visit the pub.

A woman from an English village, near where the Glastonbury Festival takes place, tells me that her stables are haunted. As she worships at the nearby cathedral, I suggest that she gets them to pray. They politely decline. She returns to me telling that her horses go berserk in the stable and that there are pornographic graffiti. Somewhat unenthusiastically, I bless some water (evil spirits do not like holy water – the symbolism is of baptism, the cross and the resurrection), and toss it into the stables with a somewhat 'iffy' prayer. There is a sort of whooshing sound and the very large lay reader standing next to me is virtually knocked over – and the stables become usable!

A business man has taken over a factory in Leicester. He is somewhat alarmed – a group of electricians down tools as they have been terrified by constant short circuits and other problems, a leading worker hears footsteps and smells cigarette smoke, a girder crashes to the ground inexplicably. He is somewhat sceptical but calls for help. His scepticism melts somewhat when, sitting in his office one evening, his office door which is controlled by a keypad opens – and there is no-one there. After several visits culminating in a communion service on the factory floor, calm is restored.

I am leading an Easter conference, in a missionary village in Papua New Guinea, for the Wycliffe Bible translators. I do some seminars on spiritual warfare. A somewhat rebellious teenager suddenly tells her parents that her bedroom is haunted and she has been troubled for about ten years. Her younger brother rather reluctantly admits to having had similar visitations. The house is built into the side of a hill, their bedrooms are effectively underground. Nothing much happens when we pray. The parents return to their isolated village to carry on their translation work. They are surprised to receive an email from their daughter. She tells them that she has become a Christian and is being baptised in the river next weekend. How did a house in a Christian missionary village become so troubled? I cannot prove it but I would offer this explanation. The Australian Government, who oversaw PNG before independence, gave the village to the Bible translators because it had been disputed by two tribes for many centuries. I think the house was built on the site of cannibalism – a normal aftermath of battles.

Some people ask 'How can this be? There is nothing in Scripture about haunted houses or troubled buildings. However, in 2Kings 23 vv8 and 13 the godly King Josiah 'defiled the high places'. That is the language of exorcism and the whole chapter is full of the destruction of idolatrous objects.

Others ask' What has caused the problem'. There a variety of reasons but 'place memories' (where tragedies such as murder and suicide have occurred)and places where people have done foolish things like using tarot cards or Ouija boards are among the most common. Sometimes the present occupants are themselves responsible and in extreme cases may have brought the trouble with them from a previous dwelling.

People are incredibly grateful when we take their problems seriously (obviously sometimes there is a natural reason for the strange happenings). They are even more grateful when everything becomes peaceful.

It is a great witness to the truth of the Resurrection. How could a few prayers transform a situation unless the Risen Lord is in command? Colossians 2:15 says 'He (God) disarmed the rulers and authorities, by triumphing over them in him (it) (either Jesus or the cross).

Prebendary John Woolmer is an Anglican priest who has been involved in deliverance ministry for over 40 years. An expanded version of this essay can be found in Chapter 7 of  'The Devil Goes Missing?' (Monarch 2107)

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